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Night Stalker – Pilot (Review)

This January, to prepare for the release of the new six-part season of The X-Files, we’re wrapping up our coverage of the show, particularly handling the various odds and ends between the show’s last episode and the launch of the revival.

If you want to examine at the impact of The X-Files on mainstream American television, there are worse places to look than Night Stalker.

Sure, the show only ran for six episodes before it was cancelled, but its very existence speaks to the legacy and success of The X-Files. Night Stalker was a revival of a failed seventies cult television show commissioned by Touchstone Television and broadcast on ABC, one of the “big three” American television networks. More to the point, the network had tasked a veteran producer of The X-Files to oversee production of the show. The network scheduled their Night Stalker relaunch on Thursday nights, against the ratings juggernaut of CSI.

Night Stalking, deserves a quiet night...

Night Stalking, deserves a quiet night…

This was not a scrappy young network taking a creative gambit on an unknown property because they had nothing to lose; this was a substantial investment by a major player in a property that was largely forgotten outside of cult circles and which had failed the last time that it had come to television. It was very much a creative decision based on what had been learned from the success of The X-Files; handled properly, a seemingly marginal and fringe property could grab the national attention. The major networks had been paying attention.

In a way, the success of CSI at the turn of the twenty-first century was proof of this; a forensic thriller populated by idiosyncratic characters with an emphasis on stylised direction. ABC had committed to this idea with Lost, which launched in September 2004. Debuting a year later, Night Stalker found the network doubling down on the premise. Although the twenty-first century televisual landscape owed a debt to The X-Files, Night Stalker would be perhaps the most obvious successor. At least until Fringe came along three years later.

Playing all the angles on the City of Angels...

Playing all the angles on the City of Angels…

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